Everyone has six-pack abs -- they're often just hidden under a layer of fat. The middle abdominals, known more formally as the rectus abdominis, are the muscles at the center of the abdomen, where the gods of fitness sometimes shine their light and give people those glorious six-pack abs. If you want to tone and strengthen this area, you have your choice of an almost endless list of exercises. However, a few are known to be most effective for training this area of the body.
Perform the "bicycle" maneuver, which is the most effective exercise for the rectus abdominis, according to the American Council on Exercise. Lie on your back and place your hands behind your ears, and then begin cycling your legs in a bicycle pedaling action. As your right knee gets closer to your chest, touch your left elbow to it. When your left knee nears your chest, touch your right elbow to it. Count the number of times you touch your elbows to your knees until you get to 50. Take a break and then complete a second set.
Use the "captain's chair" at your local gym or fitness center to do the second-most effective abdominal exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. Step onto the captain's chair, facing outward, and then grip the handles that are on the horizontal bar. Engage your abs as you lift your legs, either keeping your knees bent or legs straight as you pivot at the waist. Lift and lower your legs 10 to 12 times, take a 30-second break, and then perform a second set.
Do crunches on an exercise ball, to perform the third-most effective abdominal exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. Sit on the exercise ball and then plant your feet on the floor, facing out from the ball. Roll your body away from the ball until your upper back is resting on its top, and then place your hands behind your ears. Lift your upper body so it reaches an incline of 45 degrees or less, and then lower your upper body back down. Repeat this motion 25 times, take a break of about 30 seconds, and then complete a second set.
- Do each of these exercises three to four times a week, giving yourself a day of rest in between abdominal workouts to allow your muscles time to rest and generate new muscle tissue.
- If you want to exercise your abdominals while at your desk or nearly anytime, perform the "vacuum" maneuver. Simply contract your abdominal muscles, visualizing moving your abs in toward your spine, and hold for as long as you can.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.